Doctrine of Respondeat Superior Cases In California
Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, "an employer is vicariously liable for the torts of its employees committed within the scope of the employment." (Lisa M. v. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital (1995) 12 Cal. 4th 291, 296 48 Cal. Rptr. 2d 510, 907 P.2d 358.)
An employee's actions need not benefit the employer ( id., at p. 297; Bailey v. Filco, Inc. (1996) 48 Cal. App. 4th 1552, 1560 56 Cal. Rptr. 2d 333).
And "an employee's willful, malicious and even criminal torts may fall within the scope of his or her employment for purposes of respondeat superior, even though the employer has not authorized the employee to commit crimes or intentional torts." (Lisa M., supra, at pp. 296-297.)
"The employer is liable not because the employer has control over the employee or is in some way at fault, but because the employer's enterprise creates inevitable risks as a part of doing business.
Under this theory, an employer is liable for 'the risks inherent in or created by the enterprise.' " (Bailey, supra, at p. 1559.)
Conduct committed within the scope of employment for purposes of respondeat superior liability requires "a nexus between the employee's tort and the employment to ensure that liability is properly placed upon the employer." (Bailey v. Filco, Inc., supra, 48 Cal. App. 4th at p. 1560.)
"The nexus required for respondeat superior liability--that the tort be engendered by or arise from the work--is to be distinguished from 'but for' causation. That the employment brought tortfeasor and victim together in time and place is not enough. . . . the incident leading to injury must be an 'outgrowth' of the employment citation; the risk of tortious injury must be ' "inherent in the working environment" ' citation or ' "typical of or broadly incidental to the enterprise the employer has undertaken." ( Lisa M. v. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, supra, 12 Cal. 4th at p. 298, fn. omitted.)
The employee's tortious conduct must also be " 'a generally foreseeable consequence of the activity.' In this usage, . . . foreseeability 'merely means that in the context of the particular enterprise an employee's conduct is not so unusual or startling that it would seem unfair to include the loss resulting from it among other costs of the employer's business.' " (Lisa M. v. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, supra, 12 Cal. 4th at p. 299.)
Generally, the determination of whether an employee has acted within the scope of employment is a question of fact. But it becomes a question of law for our independent consideration when " ' "the facts are undisputed and no conflicting inferences are possible." ' " (Lisa M. v. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, supra, 12 Cal. 4th at p. 299.)